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February 21, 2024

Surely You Are Not Another of This Man’s Disciples?

Passage: John 18:15-17

Now it happened on the night that Jesus was betrayed, the night of Maundy Thursday, that Jesus taught many truths in the upper room. One of these truths comes to us from John 15:12-17, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. 14 "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 "These things I command you, that you love one another.”

As Jesus describes true friendship in this discourse, He instructs His disciples that in no way is friendship to be fair weather. Christ chose His disciples to bear fruit. He called them to no longer be servants, but friends. His friends are to obey Him. He asks them to love one another.

What a powerful and humbling charge Jesus laid in His disciples’ care…only to be completely neglected just few hours after their discussions in the upper room. Though Christ laid down His instruction, many would spurn it in their fair-weather ways of abandonment. Many, including ourselves, under the heat of pressure, would answer the question just like Peter, namely this question, “Surely You Are Not Another of This Man’s Disciples?” And how did Peter answer? I am not…

And yet, despite our fair weather behavior, Jesus showed that He still is our greatest friend as He would lay down His life for us, so that when we denied our discipleship just like Peter, Jesus would say to us, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” So, Jesus answers the question for us, “Surely You Are Not Another of This Man’s Disciples?” With a resounding, “Oh yes, they are! I chose them, lived for them, and died for them! Even when they fall into sin, even the sin of cowardice, I still call them My own. I forgave them. They are mine.”

(We pray…)

So, how pathetic it is to see how the disciples go from hearing Jesus perfect instruction on friendship and discipleship only to have it smashed to pieces. To present the disappointment I am talking about, I have two Lenten examples for you: Judas and Peter. We begin with the former. Judas Iscariot was not present to hear Jesus’ discourse on friendship and discipleship because, after having been revealed as the betrayer, Judas had already run off to find his band of crooks. One may wonder if Judas was ever really a friend of Jesus. He seemed to represent the causes of His friend Jesus when he would so righteously object to Mary’s use of spikenard on Jesus’ feet, “"Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" But things were made clear by Scripture a verse later, “This Judas said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” It was clear that Judas didn’t care for friendship and discipleship with Jesus, but what he did care for was what this world had to offer—money and what it could buy. Judas wanted silver, and He got it…but at what cost? The cost of being a fair-weather friend.

Now how about Peter? Peter heard the discourse on true friendship and discipleship. And it seems that Peter got the memo, for when the crook Judas showed up with his team of bandits, Peter started swinging the sword. Perhaps it was easy for Peter to do that though, for after Judas’ entourage asked for Jesus, and Jesus in the confirmation of His identity knocked the arrest party to the ground, Peter had all the confidence in the world to just start swinging…But Jesus, quelling Peter’s misplaced zeal, corrects Peter. After healing Peter’s mistake, Jesus asks, “shall I not drink the cup my father has given me? Could I not call down twelve legions of angels to stop this? Put your sword away…” This was not the time to die for Peter’s friend, for Peter’s friend must first die for him. And as Jesus is taken away by the garrison, a test is sent Peter’s way, a test to see if Peter’s friendship, discipleship, and trust in Jesus would be just as zealous as earlier. Would Peter be as bold without Jesus’ physical presence right next to him? As Peter stands in the courtyard, at the doorway of the place of Jesus hearing, the servant girl doorkeeper asks him, “Surely You Are Not Another of This Man’s Disciples?” What would Peter do? Chop ears off again? No…He would deny His discipleship… “I am not.”

After seeing these two characters betray their discipleship—one for money and the other out of fear—now it’s time to reflect on our Christian discipleship. So, what was it for you? How many times have we effectively said, “I am not?” Was it as simple as Judas’ love for money and what it could buy? Or perhaps it’s more like Peter when you are asked any number of questions like “Come on, you actually believe in an all-loving God, who not to mention, let’s evil happen…you actually believe in talking snakes and resurrections…you’re a bigot because you believe in absolute morality…you’re unbelievable thinking that your church is right and ours is wrong...” Now you may not say so foolishly, “yeah, you’re right…” but how did you react? Did you rashly swing the sword giving into a burst of impatient irrational anger or did you sheepishly not say anything to have your silence convey to your challengers, “you’re right and I’m wrong.”

Now, it’s important to know that no matter what the sin was that you committed, no matter how you answered the question with “I am not,” it’s important to know where to turn from there. Following Judas’ path of remorse, throwing back the money won’t save you; not hangman’s noose would ever save anyone. Following the Peter path of remorse, turning to see Jesus is the only way to see forgiveness for your guilt.

And so, all of you who have surrendered Jesus for fear or for creature comforts or for anything in between, let us hear the lesson of Christ again, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” And Jesus practiced what He preached. What Judas could have had and what Peter did receive, Jesus would accomplish through His work done for all people, including you. Jesus would lay down His life for His friends. He let Judas run away to betray Him that the dominos that lead to calvary would fall. He let the crowd arrest Him, teaching Peter a most important detail of His work, “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" And by doing these things, by allowing to transpire the events that would precipitate the laying down of His life for His friends, Jesus would not only go to calvary, but would go to calvary as the spotless lamb of God with a perfect life and with innocent blood to offer in exchange for our immortal well-being.

And so, let’s break this down further. For every time you were a fair-weather friend of Jesus’, giving Him up in whatever way you can think of, Jesus kept a clean record sheet on your behalf. Jesus never gave up on you as His friend. Remember, we didn’t choose Him. He chose us. He chose us to bear much fruit. And for that to happen, Jesus had to stay committed to saving us. He walked through every temptation, being urged on every side to be a fair-weather friend towards you. If you recall, Satan tempted Jesus to renounce His Father by relying on bread alone and not God’s Word. Satan tempted Jesus to fall off the church steeple to test God. Satan tempted Jesus as He tempted Judas by offering Jesus the riches and kingdoms of the whole world…and Jesus would have abandoned us all if He gave in to any of these things…but He did not. No, Jesus conquered, and He kept conquering. He kept being the best friend we could ever ask for. Even during the hardships of Lent, He did this. The disciple disappointed Him, but Jesus wasn’t petty. He kept going in perfection to save His disciples. Jesus was mistreated in several courts of law, during any of which He could have said, “who needs this?” Yet He didn’t leave. Jesus was scourged, mocked, spat upon, put on a cross where He was challenged, “if you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” But He kept going, for remember Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” Jesus was never fair weather, but He stuck to the course all so that you can be saved by Him. Jesus through this work has made you His disciples, His followers, who rely on the grace of their master.

And so, remember once again, you did not choose Him. He chose you. Remember that for every time you feel the guilt of having abandoned Jesus. Remember that when you are asked again and again, “Surely You Are Not Another of This Man’s Disciples?” Remember that Jesus is the one who answers that question, “oh yes, they are! They are my own. I went through hell and back on the cross to make them My disciples. They are not only my disciples, but they are my sheep. I know them and they know Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Praise be to God! By this grace, we can with resounding excitement turn our “I am not” answer to a strong, confident “I most certainly am” every time we are asked, “surely you are not another of this man’s disciples?”   For it was that every time you and I have given up our Lord, for every time guilt has struck us for not acting in a Christlike manner, for every time we were fair weather, Christ has forgiven us through His life and His death. Jesus has chosen us. He has given up His life for us, His friends.